This Foundation Gives Cancer Patients Wigs For Free

Martino Cartier and one of his Wigs and Wishes recipients after fitting her wig.

Almost 10 years ago, celebrity hairstylist and philanthropist Martino Cartier founded Wigs and Wishes with the goal of empowering women dealing with hair loss as a result of chemotherapy. With the support of donors and sponsors, Wigs and Wishes is able to provide these women with natural-looking wigs for free. To date, the non-profit organization has donated over 250,000 wigs and impacted thousands of lives.

American Salon sat down with Cartier to ask him a few questions about the wig recipient process.

Women must be nervous when they first come to you for a wig. How do you make them comfortable?

MC: It’s important to let her know she’s going to love her new hair more than she loves the hair she already has. It’s also crucial to understand the date she started her chemotherapy. Most women will start to lose their hair on the 14th day after their first chemotherapy treatment, but reassure them that they’re not going to wake up with bald patches. On the 14th day, the hair will shed four to five strands whenever the client runs their fingers through their hair. Each day that number increases, so it’s important to have the wig ready for the client before day 14.

What is the process like when you have a new wig recipient?

MC: When I do a wig I like to bring the client into my chair and turn the chair away from the mirror. I then quickly shave her head and apply a lace-front wig with a monofilament top. This ensures that the client can see her scalp through the wig, making it look like human hair and hair that she's used to. Once it's in place, I turn the chair and let her see herself for the first time—that's usually follow by tears of joy.

Once the client leaves your salon, what is maintenance like?

MC: I use heat-friendly wigs so that the client can use a round brush, a blow dryer, a flat iron and or a curling iron to style at home. Heat-friendly wigs are so easy for them for the client because they’re lightweight and they are not hot to wear. Plus, when they get wet, they dry exactly like they did when they left the salon. There is absolutely no maintenance. My always ask me what should they should do about their scalp while going through chemotherapy. I tell them to treat their scalp as if it’s part of their face by using a face wash and moisturizer.

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